If you are lucky enough to have a garden, some of these plants may start providing you with a spring bounty over the next month or so. Young nettles and wild garlic have many uses. Wild garlic in particular can be used in salads or made into a pesto. Elderflowers appear as big fluffy white fronds on the branches of the elder tree.
When picking nettles make sure to only harvest the very young, green shoots. The older leaves are tougher and can have laxative properties. As with picking any wild foods it is advisable to pick well away from roads or anywhere someone might have sprayed fertiliser or weedkiller. Later in the year when the nettles go to seed, you collect the seeds which are good for boosting energy and can be sprinkled onto breakfast cereals or yogurts. You will need to hang the harvested nettles up to dry. And once they are completely papery, rub them in your hands until the seeds break away — you can then pass them through a sieve or colander to separate them from any dried leaves.
Once wild garlic takes hold in your garden it can spread quite quickly. If you are getting fed up with it crowding other plants you can pull up the entire bulb when you are picking it. This will decrease the amount growing back the next year. If not, just snip the stems with scissors. I use Macroom stoneground flour when making these wild garlic brown scones — it adds a really nice nutty texture.
Elderflower cordial is quite popular in springtime. I also like rosehip syrup which you can make towards the end of summer. It can be used in the same way as elderflower as a refreshing drink with some sparkling water or it can be drizzled over ice cream. There are many recipes for making elderflower cordial online — some use citric acid and others simply use lemon juice. The cordial benefits from the citric acid as it stops it from fermenting and will help it to last longer. I have included a cake recipe that uses the cordial. You can add a little more to the icing if you want a stronger elderflower flavour.
- 280g golden caster sugar
- 50g soft butter
- 3 eggs, separated
- 220g natural yogurt
- 2 tbs elderflower cordial
- the zest of 3 lemons
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder, sieved
- 1/2 tbs elderflower cordial
- 1/2 tbs lemon juice
- 50g icing sugar
Pre heat your oven to 180°C and line an 8-inch round tin with baking parchment. You can also use a 2 lb bundt tin to make this cake. If you are using one of these, grease and flour the tin and set aside.
Mix the sugar, butter, and egg yolks in a bowl. Add the yoghurt, cordial, and lemon zest. Stir until smooth.
Gently stir in the flour and the baking powder.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and carefully fold into the mixture.
Scoop the batter into the prepared tin and bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin until it is cool enough to handle, then gently turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, whisk the icing sugar with the cordial and lemon juice. It should be runny enough to pour but not so liquid that it does not coat the cake. Add more icing sugar or liquid as needed. Pour it over the cooled cake and decorate with some fresh elderflowers if you have them.
- 320g wholemeal flour
- 280g plain flour
- 1 tsp bread soda, sieved
- 1 tsp salt, sieved
- 400ml buttermilk
- a small bunch of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat your oven to 160°C and line a flat baking tray with parchment.
Put all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir together.
Add the buttermilk, wild garlic, and the egg to the dry ingredients and combine.
The dough should be soft but not too wet. It is best to handle the dough as little as possible if you want light scones. Place the dough on a floured surface and pat down to about an inch thick. Cut with a small round scone cutter.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your cutter.
- 2 knobs of soft butter
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 100g young nettle leaves, washed and roughly chopped
- 50g baby spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 50g parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 8 filo pastry sheets
Heat one knob of butter in a heavy-based saucepan and sauté the garlic for about a minute until it starts to emit an aroma. Add the nettles and spinach and sauté until wilted. Set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 180°C and have a medium-sized flat ovenproof dish to hand.
Stir the feta, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and black pepper together. Add in the nettles and spinach — leave behind any liquid that has come out of them. Combine everything and scoop it into your ovenproof dish.
Melt the second knob of butter and brush the first of the pastry sheets. Lay the sheet gently onto the filling. Brushed another sheet with butter and lay it beside the other one so that the filling is covered. Continue this process and layer up the rest of the sheets in the same way.
Bake for about 35 minutes until the filling is heated through and the pastry is golden.